Opinions and feedback from our pupils has a high priority at Cypress. We are a "listening school".
Self-assessment and ongoing discussion in class let teachers know how the children feel about their own learning and development. These class reflections also allow pupils to share their thoughts on how they feel their needs as learners, and little people, are being met by the provision in class, and how motivated they feel about their learning and themselves. Teachers use this feedback to inform their planning.
Pupil voice does not just happen about class level provision; we seek it at whole school level too. There will be times that we conduct whole school feedback exercises through discussions and surveys.
However, built into our school routines, is the use of our student council. Each class, from year 1 to year 6, elects two councillors (year 1 after Christmas). This happens twice each year. So, councillors hold office for half a year. The council is used to discuss issues set by staff and the head teacher, but it also raises its own agenda items.
A weekly meeting is held in each class and discussions are facilitated by the councillors. Each class has a council minute book.
Later in the week, the assistant head teachers on each site meet with their councillors to discuss the class meetings. The assistant head teachers keep the minutes of these school council meetings and they are sent to the head teacher weekly. The head teacher reads these and uses the feedback on issues that she has set to drive what will happen next. She also raises issues with relevant staff on queries that have come from the weekly council meetings. For example, letting the site manager know that the soap is not being changed often enough and letting the school's lunch time food provider know that children have queried consistency in food portions and choices.
The school council is very active and has been instrumental in many aspects of school development. These include:
Reflections on what modes of learning pupils have been most motivated by. This led to an active effort to plan more trips, to hold more frequent whole school outdoor learning days, and to arrange Forest school after school clubs, for example.
Changing the symbols we used for the behaviour charts from wobbles to strikes.
Voicing the opinion that not enough was done to change unacceptable behaviour at playtimes. Sanctions were in place, of course, but were not visible to the children, as they involved meetings with parents etc. We needed to introduce a sanction that was visible to children and satisfied their sense of justice. This led to us setting up a facility for playtime exclusions, for children who had acted in a seriously unacceptable way, or who were continuing low level behaviour that was stopping others from enjoying their play. It meant that children who had made these choices had their privilege to play with everyone else removed for a set time.
Selecting the most important features for playground development. This has happened on the infant lower playground, infant adventure playground, junior top playground, junior bottom playground and, currently, the garden at the juniors.
Prioritising the refurbishment of the toilets on the junior site and selecting the decor.
Deciding the colour for the junior corridor redecoration, which was completely different to what the head teacher thought they would want. This was the same for the new curtains in the junior hall; they rejected all three samples selected, and gave clear guidance about the direction they wanted to go in.
Photographs of our current councillors are displayed on both sites. Our councillors may have to undertake other duties that arise whilst in role: meeting visitors, joining working groups, for example.
As our Student Council is given such high status at Cypress, the children are very keen to hold office.